When the Nets traded Jeremy Lin to Atlanta last Friday, the logical implication was that they would become D’Angelo Russell’s team. As the starting point guard, he has the keys to drive the car and the opportunity to grow into the leader Magic Johnson once doubted he would become with the Lakers.
But general manager Sean Marks said on Tuesday that the Nets still are a work in progress and that Russell and everyone else must earn their place in the pecking order. In fact, Marks has no plans to negotiate a rookie contract extension with Russell but rather will wait to see how he performs in his contract year before reaching restricted free agency.
That means Russell and fellow Nets point guards Spencer Dinwiddie and newcomer Shabazz Napier all have a chance to prove themselves.
“I think it’s a big year for everybody,” Marks said when asked if Lin’s departure elevates Russell’s importance. “You asked me specifically about D’Angelo, but it’s never about one person. This is about a team, a group of guys competing, and we’ll see how it all transpires. I cannot tell you how it’s going to unfold in training camp.”
Russell is scheduled to make $7.02 million this season but is eligible for a rookie contract extension before the regular season begins. Next summer, the Nets must make a qualifying offer of $9.16 million to retain his rights.
Asked if he plans extension talks with Russell, Marks said, “I think for now we’re going to see how this group plays together, how it all unfolds. As it stands now, this is the group and we have no plans to make any crazy changes, whether that’s an extension or signing or trading anyone else. But things happen quickly, so . . . ”
Lin found that out the hard way after rehabbing a ruptured patella tendon suffered in the season opener and getting into shape to start training camp. He attended Las Vegas Summer League, where he said he thought there was no substance to persistent trade rumors because he’d heard nothing from management.
But when Marks found a taker, he shipped Lin to the Hawks as a move to clear salary cap space to acquire forwards Kenneth Faried and Darrell Arthur, a conditional first-round pick in 2019 and a second-round pick in 2020 from Denver. Marks thanked Lin for his efforts but acknowledged disappointment that he played only 37 games over two seasons because of injuries.
“He certainly helped with the culture,” Marks said. “His work ethic is unprecedented for all our [players] to see how hard he works at his craft but also his rehabilitation. Unfortunately for him, a lot of his time was spent rehabbing.”
Marks said he updated Lin as trade talks developed. “I talked to Jeremy that [Thursday] morning, and obviously, things transpired pretty quickly,” Marks said. “I talked to him again afterwards, and he handled it like a true professional and gentleman. It’s a tough decision for everybody.”
Notes & quotes: Will Weaver, who spent two seasons as special assistant to Nets coach Kenny Atkinson, was named head coach of the G League Long Island Nets . . . The Nets signed free-agent forward Treveon Graham, who has a career three-point percentage of .438, to a two-year deal for their final roster spot, according to a Yahoo Sports report. Only the first year of the deal is guaranteed.